Todd, you should be able to cast as far as you are physically able to.
Learning the mechanics and having a casting instructor watch me and provide feedback as to what's right and wrong has helped immensely.
That is the best second step. Your post here was the first step. It shows that you have an open mind, want to improve and want to know what are realistic goals.
In the meantime go here: read, watch the animations, and understand what the words mean. Then memorize and re-watch before every practice session. (I wonder how many times I've posted this link).
Virtual Fly Casting - Instruction - The 5 Essentials
Practicing without knowing what you are supposed to be doing would be kind of like trying to learn to fly a fighter jet by trial and error , juggling all the controls not knowing what each of them individually does.
The most common problem with most of the casters I see is a weak backcast. The exercise I've had the most luck with for this is a shot glass half-filled with water, cast back and up, against a door or wall 2' behind the caster's fully extended arm.
The resulting "shot pattern" should be compact and should hit with a loud "splatt". If it forms in a line down the door or wall, that backcast would have resulted in a huge loop or non-loop that lands in a pile behind the caster. If it doesn't "splatt", the "stop" was not abrupt enough or the stroke was not accelerating enough prior to it. "Late" rotation is a key here.
Pantomiming in front of a mirror without a rod is another great backcasting aid. Stand with your casting side facing the mirror. Extend your casting arm fully extended, imaginary rod pointing directly toward the popper laying in the water forty feet in front of you. Look into the miror and start pulling the rod toward you (still pointing at the popper) accelerating the speed and rotate quickly as your hand nears your face with as much acceleration as you can muster and come to the most abrupt stop possible just behind your ear right at the point that you cannot accelerate any faster.
will bounce forward 3-5 inches AFTER the stop if you are accelerating and coming to a "hard" stop. Then try it using less and less force and more relaxed. You are now using a 5 wt and casting not so far. But the starting position is the same - arm out straight rod pointed toward the Adams. Your hand and
forearm should still bounce forward after the stop.
What are you sitting on your duff for? Go get in front of that mirror.!